Is Flagstaff the Craft Brew Hub of the Southwest?
According to Steele Wotkyns, one of the founders of the Flagstaff Ale Trail, it is. He has some convincing evidence to back that up. There are now six craft beer brewers in Flagstaff ranging from the well-established Flagstaff Brewing Company to the newest start-up, Cosmic Beer. The breweries are joined by Hops on Birch with 28 beers on tap and McGaughs Smoke & Bottle that stocks over 300 brews to satisfy every beer lover’s taste.
Over Labor Day weekend, Barbara and I ventured to Flagstaff to take in the Coconino County Fair and to experience the Ale Trail. Here’s how it works. For $12 you get a Passport and a free unbreakable Silipint pint glass. When you show your Passport at the breweries, you receive discounts on your purchase. if you were to take advantage of all the discounts, the Passport is around a $20 value plus the free Silipint.
Unfortunately, we were not able to make it to all of the Ale Trail locations, but since there is no expiration date on the Passport, we can take advantage of it when we visit Flagstaff again.
Our first stop was at Mother Road Brewing Co. I had decided to try each breweries pale ale to get a sense of each brewer’s style. Mother Road’s version is called Roadside. According to Urs Riner, the “head yeast whisperer”, he does not brew to a style but creates a beer and then finds the style that fits it best. Roadside is definitely a pale ale as acknowledge by the Gold Medal it won at the 2012 US Open Beer Championship.
As you bring a pint of Roadside up to your mouth, you are hit by a pleasant fruity and floral aroma of hops which is carried through into the taste. The slightly amber ale is smooth in the mouth and finishes with a mild bitterness. The complex aroma and flavor of Roadside is due to the four kinds of hops that are used and at 5% alcohol this is a beer that you can enjoy for an evening with friends.
For dinner we headed around the corner to Beaver Street Brewery. We have always enjoyed the pizza from their wood-fired oven with its thin, crispy crust and wide variety of topping possibilities. To go along with the pizza I ordered a pint of Pinecone Pale Ale and Barbara went for the Raspberry Ale. The Pinecone had a floral aroma with just a hint of pine. The flavor was pleasant with just the right amount of bitterness in the finish. The Raspberry Ale, as the name implies, was very fruity over a smooth malty flavor.
Before leaving Flagstaff, I had to stop into to see the 300+ craft beers at McGaughs. It is hard to believe that this little store could hold so much delight. I was a bit overwhelmed and finally decided to stick with the locals and picked up a bomber each of Cosmic Beer’s Dirty Blond and Full Moon Porter. I opened the Dirty Blond to go along with the smoked chicken I was preparing for Labor Day dinner at home. The first thing that hit me was the smell of fresh toast which was followed by a very earthy flavor. I have to admit that the first taste took me by surprise but by the end of the meal I was wishing for another glass. I am looking forward to preparing another meal to compliment the Full Moon Porter. Steak, anyone?
Barbara and I are looking forward to sampling brews at the other three breweries on the Flagstaff Ale Trail. Both Flagstaff Brewing Company and Lumberyard Brewing Company are located in historic buildings that offer great atmosphere with pub fare as well as a good selection of beers. Mogollon Brewing Company is a production brewery located a little ways out of town but their beers are on tap at The Green Room.
To answer the question, Flagstaff has a very active craft beer brewing community that is producing some outstanding beers. So, yes, let’s go ahead and call it the hub. I’ll drink to that.